Round and Round We Go

I thought I would continue to try and have a substantive conversation with Dr. Bishop regarding her presentation to our legislative delegation, which as you can see from the note at the very bottom (chronology is bottom up – see below for some shortcuts) piqued my curiosity when I saw it referenced in a State Senator’s newsletter.  I have appended the conversation save the last reply from her, which, because that reply removed the markup, made following the back and forth (more) difficult. Her last reply was,

Dear Mr. Grover,
Thank you for your thorough feedback. 
I hope you have a nice holiday.
Deena Bishop

Apparently she now has me confused with a blue Sesame St character (OK, maybe that’s not all that unusual…) But will she respond to my questions or concerns? I think that is as likely as her setting up a meeting, don’t you?

There were a total of 6 notes. Click here for my initial e-mail. Click here for Dr. Bishop’s reply to that note (the second in the string). My comments on Dr. Bichop’s note (the third note) can be found here. I interlineated my comments to her reply, so her reply and my comments appear at the top in one message, here. My writing appears in Times New Roman, Dr. Bishop’s in Helvetica.

To:        Dr. Deena Bishop
From:    Marc Grober

On 12/14/17 2:42 PM, Bishop_Deena wrote:

Hi Mr. Grober,

Hello Deena – answers interlineated below…

You and I must meet.

Actually, we need not meet, though if you wish to meet I can certainly accommodate that. However, I don’t see you as taking steps to that end, do I, so I will assume that is just polite puffing? which you can dispense with as many people find it confusing. On the off chance you are serious you know where to reach me.

I do not think that we are necessarily that distant 
on our desired outcomes for the education of students...
the details in our respective areas have some differences.

I don’t know that we have shared our “desired outcomes for the education of students”, nor am I sure what our “respective areas” are, let alone what you think the differences in those areas might be. Perhaps you could explain?

I do agree with some of your thoughts on preschool and 
the universal access that Oklahoma has tackled.

Actually, I don’t think I shared any ideas on pre-school, though I inquired as to whether you promoted Oklahoma’s position on pre-school to the legislators, a question you seem not to have answered.

Many of their preschools are funded outside of the 
k-12 system, even to private entities.

I am unaware of the sources for your claims. Perhaps you could share them?

On the other hand, there is ample documentation of the success Oklahoma had with funding public pre-school (see, for State fact sheet), both in the press:

and in the literature:
[shared as I was not sure whether this aspect of education had been broached as an area of Board interest and as we were including the Board in our conversation, they should have some familiarity with the topic – though I am not suggesting that they did not have a background in this already]

I think this is a good thing.

I see private education below the endowed post-secondary level (perhaps with certain very elite exceptions such as Phillips Andover, Exeter, etc) as suffering from poorer staffing than public schools because they pay less, provide no workplace guarantees, etc. and my experience with private schools in Alaska underscores my impressions. What data do you have that suggest that private entities manage education well?

 ASD does not have to be solely responsible for 
all preschool education. 

Perhaps not (though see my caveat above), however, by the time you impose the constraints necessary to ensure that the provision of services are comparable, you have rendered the private entity much more expensive (less affordable, I think you’d put it) and operating at a disadvantageous scale 😉

Partnerships, to me, is the key to solving this 
community concern.

Partnerships can be successful when the partners bring something to the table. You have yet to suggest what that might be.

If I can offer a lower overhead and the private 
owner agrees to pass this onto the customer, perhaps 
more folks can afford quality preschool?

Which essentially ignores the likelihood that the private operator is providing an unacceptably poor program, or the cost would be in excess of what ASD could provide.

Unused educational space is there, parents are 
looking for quality preschools they can afford, 
and empirical evidence supports early learning benefits.

Again, you seem to have ignored the fact that there might be lots of demands for space in ASD schools, but for the fact that ASD has been shedding anything that suggests it might be outside its mission statement. You also seem to have dismissed any possibility that class size could be reduced if ASD moved people out of positions carrying water for the administration, to actually teaching.

Additionally the closest reading of the literature to date suggests that the benefits of Pre-K dissipate if instruction in K-3 doesn’t maintain the pace the child experienced in Pre-K, which commends, of course, smaller elementary class sizes, AND an argument to legislators to fund Pre-K (which I will note, again, you appear NOT to have made).

On the NAEP front---2015 data is actually quite recent 
as NAEP is only given every other year to randomly 
selected students in randomly selected schools across 
the state and nation. We do not get individual student 
or school results for the NAEP. And, to be honest, 
PEAKS results mirror AYP results more than either 
of these assessments mirrored the SBA test of yesteryear. 
My argument with the delegation was that we get 
it...we get that the standards have changed and we 
are addressing this. It was not a self-congratulatory 
action. It was intended more for transparent accountability 
on my part. No excuses here.

I am not going to duel about the specifics of NAEP testing – that is all of record for anyone to see. Nor am I going to argue about the significance of AYP testing on its own or vis-a-vis the NAEP, as that is also a matter of broad discussion in the literature as I said before, and I am sure you have provided the Board with an extensive bibliography on same. My point was that the Education Next piece was of little value; a better demonstration would have been State longitudinal data, and even that is of attenuated value because it is really not comparable to Alaska Urban data as many have been at pains to point out to the likes of the ideologues at Alaska Policy Forum and their fellow travelers.

If your intent was to demonstrate that we are between a rock and a hard spot, you frankly failed as that was not the message that was passed on. If your intent was to differentiate between the urban performance and rural performance, again, you seem to have failed. And I would have thought it would have been a great opportunity for you to share your correspondence to NAEP decrying their failure to include Anchorage in their Urban assessments, and I take it that in this too, you failed. Of course, failing is the only way we really learn, though I don’t know too many employers who see it that way…

The SAT/ACT scores were presented in a Fast Facts 
sheet for ASD, available to all stakeholders. 
I did not present personally on this topic. I have 
included the data in the fast facts in this email.

So, this was simply more second hand hash. In as much as it was expected that scores on SAT and ACT would drop across Alaska takers as State requirements forced more who would otherwise NOT take the tests to take them, it would have seemed appropriate if talking about school performance to trot out such data as it is some of the on;y data that compares apples and apples we have. SInce I have not seen the presentation I can’t really comment on how it was targeted, of course, but I do have to wonder why real data on such a measure was not included on any discussion of legislative priorities for the District. Perhaps, should you make that presentation available, I could comment further?

I do have each school's national percentile score 
and will request these data also be available on 
the Data Dashboard as you have a good point 
in that they are not easily accessible.

Please advise when the data is available.

As long as we are talking about data, I should note that I had been trying to have a conversation with ASD about concussion, TBI, and sports, and had been told (2 years ago) that a committee would be formed (I even received an invite) to look into this matter (action supposedly delayed due to staffing). The staffing issue was resolved months ago, but apparently the new staff member chooses not to respond to correspondence.

In the meantime, conversations with a Board member about the data pertinent to the Middle College suggested that the member had asked for data, and yet months have passed and the member seems to be as unable to obtain data from ASD as I am, though I don’t want to put words in the members mouth…

And it seems when schools jumped on DIBELS, their successes with that tool were ignored when ASD moved to AIMSweb. Now I am hearing rumors that AIMSweb is no longer required, thereby foregoing critical data. Is there an ASD white paper on the history of probe adoption and implementation at the district which includes a section on the current tools, their relationship, if any, to prior tools, and the analysis behind any changes?

Thanks again for your thoughtful responses. They do make me step back and think.

I thought that was the entire purpose of conversation (and the reason I was black-balled from ever working at the District, lol).

Tell me, when a student complains that a teacher is spending so much time lecturing students on how to use technology the teacher  wants to use to teach that he isn’t effectively teaching the underlying lesson, what does that tell you about what is (or is not) appropriate Ed Tech?  Don’t be a tool; use the tool 😉

A Shifty Solstice, a Yumpin’ Yule, and a Scandolous Saturnalia to you and yours,


—–Original Message—–

From: Marc Grober [] Sent: Thursday, December 14, 2017 11:33 AM
To: School Board <>
Subject: Re: Questions from the Trenches


Dear Dr. Bishop,

Thank you for your interim response.

I fully understand the issues with most State AYP assessments as compared to the NAEP, as I clearly noted. I don’t understand why anyone would rely on an out of date Education Next article to address this point when it has been the subject of extensive academic discussion for some time, especially because of the nature of the NAEP as opposed to that of most AYP assessments vis-a-vis the scope of the assessment.

“Yikes!”, is not an argument in any company I know. It is an exclamation of horrified amazement, used here because the Senator apparently came away with the impression that confirmation by way of an out of date article in a political journal that an assessment abandoned by the State years ago found some agreement with long standing NAEP results, that Alaska students are far from proficiency, was a basis for self-congratulation.

More importantly, the message apparently received by the Senator seemed to be missing a longitudinal analysis with respect to the testing Alaska has done. In other words, to be blunt, had someone simply compared findings of proficiency from State AYP testing with that afforded by NAEP testing annually for the last decade that would have very simply evidenced the gap, and done that without confusing anyone. Let’s just say that I am intrigued by the fact that the Senator didn’t share the graphic your staff prepared with respect to such an analysis; can you tell us where we can find it? I certainly agree that it is high time to recognize that the State is a long way away from being able to demonstrate adequate long term proficiency on basal standards; the problem is demonstrating to legislators that increasing revenues will change that, and that NAEP testing pressnts an appropriate standard. Those bits seem to be missing, not to mention the fact that the NAEP mysteriously failed to include Anchorage in its urban testing results, and a discussion of why that might have been, and whether NAEP is going to correct that oversight.

In sum, I would have expected any such presentation to cover the challenges presented by the State’s approach to education, and the marginal successes the local District can show despite those State-wide issues. Perhaps the easiest way to get to the bottom of what you did present is to make your presentation public on the ASD web?

As to private pre-school use of ASD facilities: a) If you rent such facilities for less than the market value you are indeed wasting ASD assets, no matter your inventive approach to finance.  b) Scalable is not synonymous with affordable, this does not present an viable argument that the private sector can provide appropriate instruction at a lower cost (which seems to be what your argument is intended to imply), and ASD could always actually reduce the size of Kindergarten classes if ASD chooses to spend money on teachers, instead of on activities, administrators, special projects, and unused curricular materials.  c) The community has been busy hemorrhaging services to meet budget constraints for two decades. Did you suggest to the legislators that, as in places like ultra-conservative Oklahoma, it is high time that Alaska offered free universal pre-school, and that in light of the State budget restrictions on communities like Anchorage, it is grossly unfair to expect such communities to subsidize pre-school themselves? Apparently the Senator missed that bit too.

I am pleased, however, that this is just something your highly paid staff is investigating, and hope, like some of the bizarre schemes floated by your predecessor, this idea gets short shrift. I would suggest (AGAIN) that the District roll out the Budget Review Team system; I think that would go a long way to affording the District “community resources” as far as appropriate ways to spend educational revenues.

The ACT/SAT data should be easily accessibly via the portion of ASD’s web site addressing assessment, and for someone who has argued that decisions will be data driven, it is confusing at the least to have to ask to see what was provided to legislators. Unless, like the release of a new iphone, there is some benefit to keeping close wraps on such presentations, it would sem that the best policy is to develop and public the presentation, and then use that as a basis for discussion with legislators or whomever, as opposed to engaging in apologetics about what you believe actually happened. Thank you for your reply. It is unfortunate that so many of your staff are not as responsive.


On 12/13/17 7:45 PM, Bishop_Deena wrote:

Hi Mr. Grober,

Thank you for your feedback.  I want to clarify a 
few items you mentioned now and will get back 
with you on others, once I can locate the data.

1. Preschool---In this area, ASD is looking 
to broaden the opportunities for preschool 
in our community. We are presently using grant 
money to provide pre-schools in some of our 
schools. However, this does not meet 
all needs as presently there remain families 
who cannot afford quality preschools. 

At this same time, ASD understands that 
having preschools wrapped into our overall 
k-12 programs is not scalable (not affordable). 
In our effort to increase the readiness for 
kindergarten learning and not wanting to 
increase our costs, we are looking at innovative 
ways to increase the access to preschool. 
We partner with private preschools presently for 
training. Given some schools' space availability, 
we are investigating the idea of partnering 
with private preschools to offer programs in schools 
for students from low income families. We are 
essentially not looking to "give away assets," 
rather use the assets we have to bring value to 
our community. I realize nothing is free, 
nothing is being given away. We are in talks 
to see how we may rent space to offer a service 
that is needed by the community---this would 
support the private sector as well. These ideas 
are working in other cities, so the investigation 
was an effort to be innovative with the empty 
spaces in some schools.

2. The Education Next map URL you shared demonstrates 
the grade on STANDARDS, not assessments. The results 
of assessments are used to communicate the delta 
between the NAEP and individual state's assessment 
results in an effort to define rigor.  While Alaska 
has much to improve, the idea shared with the 
Senator was that we have standards that are of 
higher rigor than before. While our coefficient 
is still negative, it is closer than many states' 
results for which their state assessments found 
more students proficient than NAEP found. Again, 
Alaska's score is much closer, meaning we are 
more accurately reporting and that our standards 
are coming closer to the overall national expectation for 
student success. I did not share this to communicate 
we are doing well on these new standards. That 
would be untrue. In fact, I shared the poor PEAKS 
results for ASD in this presentation to show we have 
significant improvement to make.

I shared the map to demonstrate that the rigor of 
standards in Alaska changed, and we did step things 
up. Moreover, the ASD Board expects me, the superintendent, 
to foster our culture and actions to meet the higher 
standards. I am not sure about your "yikes" argument. 
Are you unhappy that we acknowledge the challenge? 

3. I will get the ACT and SAT information for you. 
It is shared directly with the District.

Thanks again for your feedback.


Dr. Deena M. Bishop
Superintendent, Anchorage School District
5530 E. Northern Lights Blvd.
Anchorage, AK 99504
Office Phone (907) 742-4312
Educating All Students for Success in Life

—–Original Message—–

From: Marc Grober
Sent: Wednesday, December 13, 2017 5:18 PM
To: School Board
Subject: Questions from the Trenches

Dear Anchorage School Board and Superintendent,

I was rather dismayed recently to receive a newsletter from Senator Gardner which featured the following statements:

Tuesday, the Anchorage School District (ASD) and School Board presented their 2018 legislative priorities to Anchorage legislators, highlighting advancements in education, cost-efficiency measures, and difficulties their organizations currently face. I sensed a lot of optimism from the district, conviction that they are moving in the right direction, and genuine pride from the new superintendent, Deena Bishop.

Over the last five years, Alaska has gone from 48th in academic rigor to 13th in the nation, SAT and ACT scores have risen city-wide (and are now well above average nationally), graduation rates have increased in nearly every demographic, and student attendance – a focus in every school – is up across the district. I’m also excited that ASD is beginning to offer space inside their schools at a below-market rate for private pre-K programs. This will provide increased access to pre-K at an affordable rate – a great incentive for parents to start their kids in their neighborhood school before Kindergarten, resulting in the need for fewer resources once they enter the public school system.

I wrote to the Senator inquiring as to the basis for these claims, and I am somewhat distressed at the results of my queries and hope that you can provide specifics as to what the Senator was actually referencing. First off, I had to ask myself about Education Next (the Senator said the claims were based on this link

Education Next “is a scholarly journal published by the Hoover Institution” [ Hoover has been a mainstay of the Republican Party for decades, serving as a virtual revolving door for high-level GOP figures and apparatchiks, including many who served in the George W. Bush administration] which does not spare its own elbows in describing itself like this: “In the stormy seas of school reform, this journal will steer a steady course, presenting the facts as best they can be determined, giving voice (without fear or favor) to worthy research, sound ideas, and responsible arguments. Bold change is needed in American K-12 education, but Education Next partakes of no program, campaign, or ideology. It goes where the evidence points.”

This publication did a story in the Summer of 2016 (yes, a year and a half ago) in which they presented an interactive map that compared State AYP test results with NAEP test results. Of course, everyone in education has understood for years that very few states had AYP results comparable to NAEP proficiency. That map, produced a year and a half ago, is the map that the Senator was apparently referred to by the District. Yikes!

“Rigor” is defined in the map’s fine print: “This number shows for a given state in 2015 the difference in the percentage of students who were labeled proficient on the state exam and NAEP (National Assessment for Educational Progress). A negative number indicates that more students were identified as proficient on the state exam than were identified as proficient on NAEP”

The piece that references the map can be found here:

Is this something for ASD to crow about. Absolutely not. As I wrote to the Senator:

“Education Next’s use of “rigor” means that if Alaska lists only 30% of its students as proficient on its exam, and its performance on NAEP reflects the same thing, then the lack of gap is regarded as effective rigor.

* This is a very artificial measure and it would be more appropriate to suggest that the metric might reflect reliability or validity of the NAEP or local measure, as opposed to rigor,

* Our coefficient is a negative number, which still shows our measure as being more “lenient” than the NAEP.

* This is at best a measure of our curriculum and testing regime, which so many want to see abandoned.

* Perhaps most importantly, the data employed are data on assessments THAT HAVE BEEN ABANDONED. In other words, anything Alaska could do to claim that State assessments were now consistent with NAEP assessments were dumped with the adoption of PEAKS.

Nothing to crow about here… So please explain why this was even trotted out to the Senator?

What about the relative performance on SAT and ACT? The Senator said that the data was provided by the testing corporations, but of course the data was not provided to the Senator, it was provided in some form, subject to certain conditions and limitations to the district. I looked at the District’s assessment web pages and could find nothing specific offering a link to the data in question. Where can the public find the data that the District is supposedly relying upon?

Lastly, how can we afford to rent out space to the public at lower than market value to provide services that the District could arguably do better? I failed to notice the sign at the time. You know, the one that said, “ASD giving away assets – sign up here!” I am a vocal supporter of public education, but it seems that ASD simply wants to fuel the fires of the Alaska Policy Forum and their ilk. What exactly is the cash loss ASD is suffering from the reduced rentals of these resources, and where is the policy analysis that finds that this giveaway is more important, for example, than providing reduced cost rentals to adult literacy programs, critical to student success, or parenting classes for that matter? Are the discounts available to any enterprise, or just for for-profits? Since we killed community schools largely on the rental loss to ASD, why not bring community schools back if ASD has so much money? Oh, wait! What about ASD offering a District wide Pre-K?

I really look forward to your reply, though based on your prior track record, I understand that answering difficult questions from the community has not been a focus of this administration.





Can We Nooksack the Inupiaq?

While celebrating Columbus ( is as ludicrous as basing jurisprudence on Story’s Commentaries (, jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire is perhaps just as silly. Pushing tribal politics until we all look like Nooksackis ( is perhaps a quantum too far.

One has to ask, who exactly are Alaska’s second peoples? There is some discussion as to whether Inupiaq (and their cousins to the East) are Alaska’s second or third peoples coming as they did rather later – some 20000 years after the first descendants of the Altaians made it from Asia (see for a general discussion, and of course, as there was no Alaska at the time, a broadening of the target brings to mind that there is evidence that Europeans made it to North America at least by 1500 ya – why not before the Inupiaq? And, of course, the purported lack of archeological evidence of humans in the Americas prior to 30000 ya is NOT evidence that there were NOT peoples here at the time. Lions and tigers and bears – don’t tell me we may have to drop someone’s cap N!?!?!?!?!

Every attempt at argument over who was there first ends up in finger-pointing and blood-letting and is, at its core, a version of “me, mine, and more”. We came down out of the trees just several hundred thousand years ago, and have been torturing each other since. We appear to have all come from what we now call Africa. The time that has passed since then is just the blink of an eye.

A Less Modest Proposal

Recently some folk have gotten their shorts in a twist because someone has the temerity to suggest that killing a 200 year old whale is not necessarily a good idea. Efforts to address those upset have been very unsuccessful because any word to suggest that Native harvest of whales should be challenged is labeled racism (which it, by definition, is not).

There is way too much emotive baggage, way too little reflection on issues underlying our cultural prejudices. Tribalism is inherent in Homo sapiens… we are virtually hard wired to be tribal as that provided some selective benefit as we evolved from under the shadows of the thunder lizards , but now it will kill us all. The harvest of marine mammals is still (and will likely become more of) a widely debated ethical decision (much as has happened with respect to pigs) as no human will die of lack of whale meat. The question is one of cultural relativism. If I eat children should I be allowed to continue eating children? Really. Why shouldn’t I eat your child? Or just mash it up as a blood sacrifice to my gods (which, after all, is not atypical for Homo sapiens)? While Dean Swift was being ironic when he penned “A Modest Proposal”, the point he makes is still very poignant, and the taking of marine mammals is as close to the dominionism now infecting our political culture.

If Critter A is hungry and he wants to eat another critter, he will run into some issues eventually, and he develops a credo that allows him to eat some (but not all) other critters. That credo, based largely on belief, is a matter of faith. You eat pig because you believe the pig is dumb, or you have some divine authority, or other excuse that applies to pig, but not dog, horse, or people. Many Neolithic and tribal cultures invent a mythology that results in their belief that their prey gives themselves freely to predator. This is, as suggested above, no far reach from dominionism.

Arguing that a specific cultural approach to life is inappropriate is not necessarily racist (and I think is rarely so, though humans are particularly inventive when it comes to being stupid). I think Female Genital Mutilation is horrific, yet I have no real qualms about Male Genital Mutilation… imagine that! Such cultural prejudices are endemic to Homo sapiens. At core it is now essentially a matter of faith. With the clash of cultures, questions will be asked, and I think that is appropriate – that is what Montesquieu was talking about when he discussed commerce, and the claims of “historical accident”, “cultural artifact”, or “religious tenet” can, and eventually will,  wear thin.

Swift, Jonathan. A Modest Proposal. 1729.

Paul Jenkins and the Brave New World

Paul Jenkins has now come forth and apparently unfurled the fact that he suffers from BobLynnefaction, an edema of the forebrain that inhibits rational thought. In his most recent malefactory diatribe he argues against Ballot Measure 1 (though he is apparently so ill he could not manage to offer a name or a pointer to the text of the proposition ).

Horrors of horrors, he argues, voter registration is a ploy of the Godless Left to undermine the Republic! For shame, he cries, that Alaskans won;t get off their lazy asses and register themselves!

Of course, Jenkins, despite his illness (this brings to mind the millions of monkeys typing out Shakespeare eventually) is correct (at least in part, and frankly we can’t expect much more than that from poor Paul, I mean look who he is named after…. the nuttiest fruitcake in the last two millennia). No, not that Alaska should seek to intentionally disenfranchise ANY voter, but that Alaska voters SHOULD BE expected to rise to their civic obligations.

Jenkins demurs on the ideal of civic obligation, arguing, like all well-behaved anti-statists (whatever those are) against their beloved Saint Locke (only second to Saint Reagan) that no one should be obliged to perform any civic duty. In doing so he essentially eviscerates the entire classical liberal scheme underlying his pseudo-philosophy, but that is a painful topic for another day. What is pertinent today is that as Locke suggests, one’s decision to become a member of a polity must trigger a set of reciprocal obligations among those so electing. In other words, under classical liberalism, if you chose to me a member of the polity, who are expected to pull your weight as far as civil obligations, including military service, providing subsistence for the poor, etc.

Bob Lynn the unethical legislative ideologue who has repeatedly sponsored Alaska Voter ID bills (HB 57 being the most recent version), and after whom Jenkins’ malady is named, was so badly taken with the condition that he suffered some blindness and paralysis.  Your charming correspondent pointed out to Rep. Lynn that he has a really really good idea that should in fact be taken up by the federal government (more on that below), because, after all, we don;t want any second class citizens in Alaska and we DO want all Alaskans to be able to easily obtain a picture ID. The onty thing missing in Bob’s plan was the establishment in every village in Alaska a full time DMV office fully capable of issuing picture IDs.  This was important because the likes of Rep. Lynn, in their wisdom, had to date made it lawful to drive without a license in rural Alaska because they were too cheap to provide access to essential State services.

Aha!  But no more.  Now, with one brilliant stroke Alaska could not only make sure there was a continuing dearth of Alaska voter fraud (yes, of course Jenkins supports Alaska VoterID proposals though there is no evidence of voter fraud in Alaska) but screen-shot-2016-10-16-at-10-47-44-amcould do away with the second class citizen status to which those in the bush have been relegated. And we could actually get a handle of how many people we had in the state. WOW!  Of course Lynn, asked if he had just overlooked this, did not respond. After a number of attempts to elicit a reply he was asked if he had intentionally meant to deny rural people access to essential State services, and at that point he “unfriended” me.  Imagine that, to get unfriended on FACEBOOK by a legislator because you are trying to clearly understand just what the fellow is trying to accomplish with his proposed legislation?!

Of course, there is more to this conversation, such as the fact that Lynn et al ganged up to pass a legislative prohibition on the State of Alaska spending any money whatsoever on ensuring that a new Alaska ID would comply with the Federal REAL ID standards (which would allow Alaskans to use their State ID to get on military bases (a significant activity in Anchorage for example, as JBER – Joint Base Elmendorf Richardson – covers much of what is Anchorage) and get into airline terminals! Governor Walker (the Unity Governor) seeks to resolve this impasse by passing a bill that allows the State to issue TWO different photo IDs, which would in fact cost more than just doing RealID compliance, but here is the kicker: the AKGOP argues that RealID compliance would infringe on the individuals right not to be identified because the RealID Act requires that the ID data be built such as it could be accessed to enable law enforcement usage. Yes folk, the law and order, anti-terrorist, PictureID crowd wants to ensure that we have people in this State who are unidentified.  Makes me feel all warm and fuzzy, eh?

What ties this all up for me is that ancillary observation that all these VoterID supporters also tend to be persons who want to be able to read  and interpret the U. S. Constitution as a seven year old. Well, OK!

Representatives and direct taxes shall be apportioned among the several states which may be included within this union, according to their respective numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole number of free persons, including those bound to service for a term of years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons. The actual Enumeration shall be made within three years after the first meeting of the Congress of the United States, and within every subsequent term of ten years, in such manner as they shall by law direct. The number of Representatives shall not exceed one for every thirty thousand, but each state shall have at least one Representative; and until such enumeration shall be made, the state of New Hampshire shall be entitled to chuse three, Massachusetts eight, Rhode Island and Providence Plantations one, Connecticut five, New York six, New Jersey four, Pennsylvania eight, Delaware one, Maryland six, Virginia ten, North Carolina five, South Carolina five, and Georgia three. Article I, Section 2, U.S. Constitution.

We can, therefore, resolve ALL our census issues by enabling a State by State program that requires all individuals in that State to be counted by way of identification. screen-shot-2016-10-16-at-11-15-49-amState ID cum VoterID cum federal entrance document cum key to social security number look-up, etc. etc. It would be like being able to get a driver’s endorsement on a passport that would be more convenient to carry, while ensuring that the census was accurate, that we knew where all aliens were living, and our gerrymandering at least accurate.  Let’s all say it together, boys and girls, “LIONS, AND TIGERS, AND BEEAAARRRRRSSSSS!!!!”

Taking Stock

In an attempt to look closely at the support for Margaret Stock by millennial self-identified “Berniecrats”, when one published a meme touting Ms. Stock in the Alaskans for Bernie Sanders stockFacebook group I invited him to specifically identify any progressive legislation now pending in the US Senate that Ms. Stock would be willing to commit to co-sponsor.  I suppose this could be considered “trolling” because it was at the time very clear to me that Stock was and continues to be very much a true Alaskan Republican, in no small part because her major endorsement thus far (other than dog musher Jeff King)  was from the The Centrist Project. After lots of your typical deflection,  the poster suggested that I address my concerns to the candidate, so I did. I e-mailed Ms. Stock’s campaign:

The question has arisen, in as much as Ms. Stock has indicated that she is receiving support from the Centrist PAC (which some read as Rockefeller Republican) and has stated that she wants to work with other Senators to get things done, whether she would co-sponsor any of the following progressive bills now pending in the Senate: S2391, S2237, S2142, S2054, S2023, S1832, S1713, S1631, S3118, S3078, S3025, S2789, S2761, S2744, S2647, S2624, S2578, S2436, S1709 , S1381, S793.

And almost immediately I received an answer directly from Ms. Stock:

Thank you for reaching out to ask about my positions on the 22 Senate bills that you listed in your email. As you can imagine, I don’t have the bill numbers memorized, but first chance I get, I will check the names of the bills and let you know my positions on them.  Do you want to set up a time to talk by telephone so we can chat about your views on these bills?

Also, just FYI, the Centrist Project is not a PAC and they do not provide money to political candidates. Instead, they are a national project that endorses candidates, and they send emails to their supporters and ask the supporters to send individual donations to the candidates.  But again, the Centrist Project is not a PAC.

Let me know if you’d like to set up a time to talk by telephone.

And I quickly responded:

Dear Margaret,

FYI, I never said that the Centrist Project was a PAC, and there is a Centrist Project PAC, the Centrist Voice, a separate segregated fund of the Centrist Project ( I am surprised that you are not aware of it, especially as the CPV donated to  screen-shot-2016-09-22-at-5-41-45-pmcampaigns in 2014, and has done so again in 2016 according to the CRP.

My views on progressive legislation are not, of course, an issue in the campaign. But as you have been touted by many Democrats as a progressive candidate, I wanted to know if you were a centrist, or a progressive, and I thought if you were to confirm your willingness, if elected, to co-sponsor the legislation mentioned, that would go quite a ways to resolving that question. Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter,    Marc [list at left, attached]

Margaret has now been caught out, as it were. The website she references for her campaign is a joint project of The Centrist Project and The Centrist Project Voice, and the website continues to solicit money, and all the money continues to go into its PAC and the PAC continues to file FEC forms and spend money (see this OpenSecrets link).  But Margaret (much like any Republican), just doubles down:

Centrist Project Voice isn’t an active PAC. It looks like they gave $75.00 to candidates in 2016. I have not received any funds from them.

Yes, the position of the person who proposes to be our new US Senator is that because the last quarterly filing shows only $75 in candidate support the PAC is not “active”, nor is she receiving any funds. Well, one has to wonder, then, why she sought their endorsement, especially in as much as the 2014 candidates that The Centrist Project endorsed received thousands of dollars!

While I let all that stew for a bit, I plumbed the Centrist Project website and made a donation.  I was thanked for my donation via an e-mail with an address of (Andy Smith, past Outreach Manager for The Centrist Project) but the e-mail said it actually came from Dane Sharrets, whose LinkedIn profile indicates that he is the current Outreach Manager at the project and the one responsible for the current web site. Of course, that may be problematic for Mr. Sharrets, as e-mails to both (the e-mail employed by Mr. Sharrets) and my attempt at what might be Mr. Sharrets’ address,, bounced. I followed up with a telephone call that went to voice mail and I left a message.

And no, I have not had anything further either from Ms. Stock’s campaign, nor from the Centrist Project.  I will update this if I hear from either.

Now, am I suggesting that you not vote for Margaret Stock?  Nope. Am I suggesting that you vote for someone else?  No there as well.  Am I suggesting that any of the points raised above are earthshaking? screen-shot-2016-09-27-at-10-30-52-amSorry to disappoint. Margaret Stock was, is, and will continue to be a Republican: she contributed to the McCain 2008 campaign, as well as to the campaign of a “true Alaska conservative” (Treadwell  2014), and her positioning today makes it clear that she is looking for a way to avoid the ideological litmus tests inherent in today’s GOP primaries.  It’s great that people want to “take back” the GOP,  it’s just unfortunate that as contrasted to Senator Sander’s efforts, they are trying to do that from outside the party.
The bit that is problematic is the confusion by self identified “Berniecrats” that use of the word “independent” somehow equates with some sense of one’s political views being progressive. Let’s put it this way, if you can argue that John McCain and Mead Treadwell are progressive goto guys for our country, then we apparently have no common understanding of what the term “progressive means.  Don’t get me wrong, I have often opined how politics is rendering so much of our language virtually meaningless, but this would be rather an extreme example. So extreme, that when I read the penultimate graph in Cal Thomas’ latest piece,

Only one candidate for president is capable of overturning the “money changers” in Washington. The political, governmental and media elites have had their chance to turn things around and they have failed. Now it’s time for…

I felt that Thomas (about as far right as one can get and still appear in a major newspaper) was, in  borrowing Senator Sander’s script, pulling the same thing.

You can take Stock. You can have Trump as well.  Are they two peas in a pod?  ‘Won’t say; wouldn’t be prudent…’  But they both look to take advantage of fear and anger, don’t they?

A Conversation on Male Privilege

So I asked…

Me: Am I a sexist for not agreeing that women are entitled to be afraid to be out at night because they are weak objects of ravening male lust?
Her: Well the issue is that you can’t tell people how to feel, especially since you don’t have the same situation. Do you walk around with you housekeys threaded through your fingers? I do that on the regular. And for many women, they may be trying to ward off a second sexual assault, since colleges are hotbeds of rape. That is my personal point of view, so I’d say try to see it from that perspective before making judgements on people’s legitimate fears. I wouldn’t call that sexist though. Maybe willfully ignorant of certain realities.
I had a date once tell me this “hillllarious” story about his buddy leaning out of a car and slapping all the asses of a bunch of women on one of those party bicycle brewery tours. I didn’t think it was hilarious. He didn’t understand why not. Until women can walk around without men whispering to them on the street, “Mmmmm, You’re so hot… Be careful” then that’s the point of view I have to have to keep myself safe from further trauma. And you can say things are safe, but maybe no one wants to rape you.
Me: I suspect that’s the case, but the rate per 100,000 of rape of a Caucasian woman by a stranger is .5 so it is 16 times more likely that the nice white ladies chewing my ass are going to die behind the wheel of their cars then get raped… so, the arguably non-sexist question to ask would be why they don’t stop driving….
Her: A car accident is much MUCH less traumatic than sexual violation. I didn’t have to go to a shrink after my car accident.
Me:  I am not trying to argue that people should not be aware of their surroundings…. but simply that telling people they should be fearful is not good for the public sense of security.
Her: If you’re standing next to a bear, you know it’s a bear. If you’re standing next to a rapist, he looks like everyone else. Not all men are rapists of course, but one rapist can cause irreparable damage to many many women. We’d kill the bear. We tell the rapist he’s fine unless the victim’s story and evidence are solid as fuck
It’s pretty rampant, you can’t deny that. Not as rampant as car accidents, but I run out of fingers counting the people I personally know have been allegedly sexually assaulted. And until you’ve gone through that trauma, you won’t know the fear. And because of that reality, the fear is legitimized. Stop the rapes and women will stop being afraid. We could start with increased sentencing and removal of statute of limitations
And on the point of strangers – if you’ve been raped by a friend or acquaintance then it does tend to paint strangers with a black brush. And that’s a victim’s struggle and right. Just because stats say that strangers usually aren’t rapists, it doesn’t mean that victim doesn’t fear men to some extent. Plus strange men like to creep on women A LOT.  Not rape, but certainly ruins a section of your waking day. Some guy whispers to me on the street on a Saturday night that I’m hot and to be careful? Doesn’t make me want to go dancing anymore, or not watch my drinks like a hawk around strange dudes It ruins things. A lot of men ruin things for women.
You can call that sexist, but the feeling is soooo gross and dark and upsetting. And every time that happens it brings some of the trauma back up – makes it real hard to trust strangers or give them the benefit of the doubt I should say
So when does “being aware of your surroundings” become “Don’t turn your back on your drink for A SECOND” and how are you supposed to be happy and joyful in that situation? Constant diligence is a necessity. Being aware of surroundings isn’t enough anymore. Well actually it was never enough, but we’ve come a long way from it being ok for a husband to rape his wife. Now rape is marginally frowned upon. Still not enough.
I don’t think you’re a sexist.  But you do have to acknowledge there is male privilege in telling women not to be afraid.

An intriguing exploration of some issues (thank you, Ms. Solfadoresido, for bringing this to my attention). screen-shot-2016-09-08-at-10-02-48-am

Rosay, Andrés. “Forcible Rapes and Sexual Assaults in Anchorage.” Alaska Justice Forum 20, no. 4 (Winter 2004). Accessed September 2, 2016.

If There Are Elk There Must Be Elves

A friend wrote that he was now convinced there was an elk on Whidbey Island. I smiled.  I had stopped and visited with a young bull moose on the way to the university this morning… Got me to thinking that there are quite a number of people to my mind who conflate “fear” and “respect”. I was not afraid of the moose in the least, but I certainly respected him for what he was.  I had no reason to change my path of travel, and no cause to have to travel in a pack.

Now, in Anchorage, our local constabulary has advised the citizenry that they should beware isolated areas like parks, bike trails or unoccupied streets, and if one plan to be out ‘late at night’, to travel with a group, because we have had 25 homicides so far this year (certainly no record for Anchorage, most of them, believe it or not, taking place
Screen Shot 2016-09-01 at 5.10.46 PMwhere police are rarely seen —  I will leave you to put two and two together on that one).
And to put that in perspective, the homicide rate in Anchorage is the same as the car crash mortality rate for Alaska and the maternal mortality rate in North Western Europe. The US, of course has a maternal mortality rate three times Western Europe’s. The rates per 100,000 for syphilis and gonorrhea are both about the same as the homicide rate here.
This all seemed to come together during a discussion of whether Trump was winding up the hate and fear across the political spectrum. I pointed out that any perceived decrease in personal or community security (as was being projected by our police) was going to raise fears, and rising fears produced irrational aggression and/or flight, and what we all really needed to do was take back our public spaces (real, as well as virtual):
Unfortunately, at the same time the Trumpus is winding folk up, we have the APD telling everyone to bar the door because it is unsafe to be out in Anchorage. The “answer” is not to hide, but to take back both the streets AND the tone of conversation.
And of, of course, there were exceptions taken. After all, as I pointed out, there is a perfectly sane reason for all white people to avoid Haarlem, Five Points, hhalf of Detroit and most of Baltimore isn’t there 😉  Apparently, while I am a man, and I can change, if I have to, I guess,  it can’t be soon enough for some…..

“‘Elk on Whidbey?’, you said?”  I think a sense of proportion comes of mixing with wild creatures on a regular basis. Much as I don’t reach for a gun when I see a black bear, I don’t reach for a gun when I see a black kid in a hoody. And when I talk about community policing I am not talking about squad cars assigned to districts, I am talking about officers spending time on foot in neighborhoods getting to know what happens there, and giving the people there an opportunity to get to know their local police. Public safety is a two way street if you want to talk about security, and not reactivity (the latter being mostly what we engage in today).  You may want to wreak vengeance on the dastardly perp, but I would rather keep the crime from taking place.

I live with bears, moose, geese, and the occasional criminal. Get outside 🙂 Tell your elected officials you’d like to be able to stroll the neighborhood with a police officer on a regular basis. Tell the Angry Birds to stay out from behind the wheels of their automobiles.


Is “Multipurpose” Just Another Word for Poorly Done?

I was a bit distressed, considering the state our trails are in, to read about the proposed ordinance to make electric bikes legal on our trails.  Let us reflect for just a moment…

  • Is there a general speed limit on our trails?
  • Are there specific speed limits that address trail circumstances and conditions (turn radius and the number of turns, width of trail, slope, lateral visibility, other traffic, etc.)?
  • Is there any enforcement on our trails?

I think by and large the answer to these questions is a resounding, “NO!”, and yet suddenly, without regard to the multitude of issues we do face on our multpurpose trails (yes, horses are allowed on our trails…) here we have an ordinance about an electric bike.

Are we first going to do something about the presumably illegal Segues and powered wheelchairs on our trails? How about the loose dogs fouling our greenbelts? Or should we think about the thousands of kids illegal biking on the trails without helmets?

The simple fact of the matter is that we have a number of criteria for the funding of “trails”, yet we seem incapable of effectively managing use of those trails once they are built.

A two hundred pound individual moving at 25 mph down an MOA bike path on a bicycle colliding with an unmanaged two year old suddenly dashing across the trail is a recipe for disaster – yet we seem unconcerned. Missoula and other locations try to address some of these issues by creating BERMED bike lanes that allow high speed bicycles to use city streets without fear of automobiles, while other cities provide what amount to bicycle only highways (keeping the three parents with the 3 double wide strollers stopping to chat from shutting down the trail). We put some paint on the road and look the other way…

Cologne Bike Highways

And wait!  There’s more!  Despite Danny Sullivan’s protestations (and the Mayor’s decision to keep Mr. Rodda in place), we have a huge burden of deferred maintenance, an ongoing crisis in grossly inadequate construction practice in laying trail, and unmet continuity issues. Do we continue to argue that maintenance of trails only be managed through State Cap Budget items? Why use local bonding to deploy apparently inappropriate or inadequate infrastructure (wooden bridges, anyone)? Is it time to put a stop to “partners” running our parks?  How do we balance ENFORCEMENT of trail usage mandates as against planning, design, construction, and maintenance of those resources?

I think it only fair to say that Mr. Traini has the cart before the horse.

Time for State Employees to Walk in Others’ Shoes

I sent the e-mail below to the Medicaid Expansion Coordinator and the DPA Director, Sean O’Brien as a follow up to my prior investigation. It has only been a couple of days, but I suppose I really am not expecting much of anything with respect to a substantive response.  Like so much else, we have here a potentially great idea, with simply horrendous implementation.

The communication below and any files transmitted with it
may contain privileged or confidential information. It is
solely for use by the individual for whom it is intended,
even if addressed incorrectly. If you received this e-mail
in error, please notify the sender; do not disclose, copy,
distribute, or take any action in reliance on the contents
of this information; and delete it from your system.

Thank you for your cooperation.
Dear Ms. Martin,

While I have been more than willing to accept what the Chris
Ashenbrenner had to say about the problems with the roll-out of the
Medicaid Expansion, any experience dealing with the claimant side of the
system is immediately explanatory of why there are so many people angry
and frustrated  with that system.

To start with, much of the information received by applicants from DPA
offices, or provided on the ARIES website, is inaccurate or misleading.
When I have tried to bring that to the attention of agency personnel, I
have been blown off, with the result that to my way of thinking,
nothing is ever going to be done to fix it. By way of example, if you
are dumped into ARIES by, your application does not show
up in ARIES, even AFTER someone has looked at the file and sent you a
demand for verification letter.  If you have an application on file, you
must be able to confirm the status of that application through ARIES.

Anyone who thinks this

That was not the greatest explanation, so let me try again.  
The number you reported prefixed with a T is a temporary 
application number while the application is in processing.   
No access is available at the self-service portal (where 
application was made) while in this temporary status.  
The application has been transferred (electronically) to 
an office for processing.  After the case is processed and 
approved it will be assigned a permanent number starting with 
a 3.  This permanent number can then be used to access features 
provided on the portal. 
is in any way explanatory (or satisfactory) needs to see a mental health
professional. Let's see... it suggests that the application number does
not become an application number until the application is not longer an
application, and suggests, contrary to what the ARIES site says, that
you can see the status of your application based on your application
number...  but of course since the only number you get while your
application is an application is the application number and that
application number is not an application number, it is fairly obviously
that most of what one might have tried to do for an hour trying to use
web tools to determine the status of an application has been totally
wasted.  Moreover, any attempt to speak to someone at the DPA office
results in you being put in a queue to leave a message which is never

As far as the back log is concerned, since it is fairly evident that no
one is doing triage on the applications, and a call to the published
telephone number about emergent issues results only in an e-mail to an
office manager who already is failing to triage applications, it is
pretty clear why applicants are getting steamed. For example, waiting 6
or 7 weeks to THEN tell an applicant he has 1 week to send in dozens of
documents while making it impossible for the applicant to discuss with
anyone the document request is, in a word, bizarre. And YES, that
is exactly what DPA is doing.  Calls to claim workers are not returned.
When they are, no message is left. And no call backs are ever attempted.

Indeed, as relates to FFM referrals, since data will in fact be sparse
because it is all electronic and no documents are accepted, you know
that no application will be accepted without receipt of additional
documentation where there is any evidence of self-employment, and yet
you sit on those applications.  Where gross FFM income is below $19000
you STILL sit on those applications, and eventually ask the applicant to
prove expenses, when it makes no difference what the expanses were if
the gross income was below the target income level (if I have $12000 in
W2 income and and $6000 in gross self employment income, it doesn't make
any difference what my business expenses are, I am still eligible).

And what IS one supposed to do in response to a request that simply
says, "Provide documentation of expenses." What expenses? What kind of
documentation? Questions? Sorry, you may NOT speak to anyone who can
answer them 

As far as published data, it is frankly unbelievable, and while there
may be an explanation for why it seems incredible, the Department does
itself no service by not providing same.  By way of example, consider
this data:

                             "Jan-16"   "Feb-16"  "Mar-16"
"Incoming Work"              "4,352"    "3,672"    "4,501"
"Work Completed              "5,136"    "5,075"    "5,042"
"True Application Backlog"   "2,692"    "1,573"    "2,053"

How can you have an Application Backlog of 1573 in February, complete
541 more applications in March than came in, and then have a resulting
backlog of 480 more than you had in February?

And providers. I have spoken to quite a few over the last several
weeks.  Many are just fed up and are ready to quit accepting Medicaid.
Yes, they have been told to go ahead and treat as Medicaid will
eventually pay (really?), but all the provider has is a voice on a
telephone, and that does not pay the bills if payment is in fact NOT
forthcoming. Thankfully, many will simply hold the bill for 30 days.
And if a provider won't hold the bill, and won;t serve you because
Medicaid can't provide even a claimant number?  Well, you are in a sense
worse off than you were before Expansion, aren't you?

The system simply is not working well for those who need it to work for
them, in no small part because communication is non-existent, and
urgency is treated with casual disregard by the system.  We can do better.


Marc Grober, Esq.
5610 Radcliff Dr.
Anchorage Alaska 99504
cell:  (907)2272417

SB174 | An Open Letter to the Alaska House Judiciary Committee

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I apparently (and unfortunately) missed the discussion in the House (and Senate) education committees on the intersection of SB174 and the Gun Free School Zones Act of 1990 as amended by theScreen Shot 2016-04-12 at 7.47.50 AM Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968 (and interpreted by the 9th Circuit).

As I read the Act, it would prohibit firearms, for example, in most of UAA’s West Campus (in as much as UAA property is not “private” property and lies within 1000 feet of a series of public schools (Lake Otis Elementary and KCC).

It seems pretty clear that there needs to be an extended fiscal note to address the full and true cost of this legislation, from the hundreds of thousands the Legislative Council would have to spend to attempt to challenge the federal Act, to the hundreds of thousands that the University system has indicated it will take to implement the Bill (should it be adopted over the objections of the UA system.)

Of course, there are other questions besides those of a pecuniary nature. For example, how will UA students know when they are in a Gun Free School Zone, and what might happen when Law Enforcement attempts to apprehend a person on UA campus in possession of a firearm within such a School Zone. Is the Legislature going to try and bar APD, AST, and the FBI from enforcing federal law on UA property? And how would the legislature actually manage that. Of course, it gets messier by the minute, because with a right to stand one’s ground and make a citizen’s arrest, it is only a matter of time before we have a shoot-out on West Campus, with stray bullets whizzing through elementary classroom windows. Yes, I am sure that all those Lake Otis students will feel much safe with the adoption of SB174 (though I am concerned that some unpatriotic bozos might well try to set up a defensive perimeter at the extent of the Gun Free School Zone and man that perimeter with armed guards – some people!)

While I do understand that the House majority is willing to invest time and energy in any proposition that avoids addressing the critical need to adopt at least a 15% nominal top rate graduated income tax, I am sure that in your eagerness to promote your legislative agenda you will, as always, act diligently, rationally and deliberately to address ALL the ramifications of such legislation, and, in the event that you don’t manage that, at least make it clear how you are going to fund both sides of the extended litigation and havoc you will otherwise be creating.

Marc Grober